In preparation for her upcoming return, Evnin Rising Stars violinist Eunice Kim discusses her first meeting with Artistic Director of Evnin Rising Stars Pamela Frank, the physical and mental tolls of an intensive week of rehearsals, and the annual after-hours costume party.
My first encounter with Pam Frank is still vivid to my mind. I was ten years old when I performed in her masterclass at the Aspen Music Festival and School. I didn’t know what to expect, and I had spent most of the summer practicing Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 2. As a young violinist, I was drilling the piece into the ground as I made sure that my passagework was as close to ‘perfection’ as possible and that my phrasing was correct. When I played for Pam, performing a piece on autopilot and staying in my comfort zone was absolutely not an option. She flew around me on stage. She was encouraging me to dance, creating colorful stories to go along with the music, poking fun at me, freeing me up, and doing just about anything she could to bridge that gap between the musical ideas in our head and expressing it directly to the audience.
As an older, and hopefully wiser, musician, all of the “Pam-isms” resonate even more with me now, especially after a whole week of music-making at Caramoor last year. The Evnin Rising Stars program is what Pam continues to emphasize as a ‘safe space’ for exploring music, and I got the full experience in 2016. Every morning, my wonderful host, Judy Evnin (also Chairman Emerita), would spoil me in the kitchen with beautiful, freshly cut fruit and a cup of coffee all ready for me before I headed to Caramoor. I dove into the day, starting with a refreshing 9am morning rehearsal with either a Mozart or Dvořák viola quintet, which then quickly turned into an intense afternoon of rehearsing a Brahms sextet, Hindemith quartet, and Haydn quartet. Every night, I’d leave the Music Room with a whole new approach on my own limits as an artist as well as how I heard these works in my head. I was challenged everyday to step further and further away from my comfort zone as a performer and to keep trying something new or different with the music, even if it meant having some bloopers along the way.
This is exactly what Pam means when she says we are in a safe space. This is a special time of the year where we get to spend an entire week in a stunning Music Room with horrible cell service (which is great for focusing, by the way), knowing that we have the time and space to experiment all we want as artists and to dive as deep as we can into the music. We all bond, create, and learn together in the no-judgement zone that Caramoor provides.
Juggling five major chamber works in five days was demanding, both mentally and physically. I was most grateful for Howard Nelson, a devoted physical therapist and Pam’s other half, who sat in every single one of our rehearsals and coachings to study each of our postures and physical habits. He’d also quietly come up to the stage and remind us, “You’ve been sitting down and playing for half an hour now. This is a good time to get up and stretch for a minute.” This was major. Not only did I learn more about music and myself as a chamber musician, I took away a whole lot about my physicality when I played that I was not aware of.
The magical week of Evnin Rising Stars at Caramoor is jam-packed with all things music related, but Pam and Judy would never let the week come to an end without throwing their infamous Halloween party. I remember coming out of rehearsal with Pam one early evening. She quickly disappeared, and within five minutes, reappeared with a fabulous costume on. She provided boxes and boxes of wigs, props, and costumes at Judy Evnin’s house, where a gorgeous Halloween dinner was served. We went late into the night to read some chamber music together, still wearing costumes. If anyone knows how to have a great time with and without their instruments, trust me, it’s Pam Frank.
I’m thrilled to be returning as an artist this year and cannot wait for all of the fun to begin!